The Soap Box

The Parasite Mentality

 

Highbridge, Kentucky

Highbridge, Kentucky

A few weeks ago, I wrote a journal entry. And I was planning on keeping that to myself, because it’s personal. But after some conversations with people, who all seem to be going through (or have gone through) similar times in life, I felt a nudge to share it.

So, you lucky person you, you get to read what has evolved from a journal entry.

Jonathan Powers (the steward of the World Gospel Mission Student Center at my college campus) was speaking Sunday night at an event. He was talking about how we need to be open to whatever God is calling us to do to invest in our community and to contribute to spiritual vitality in those around us.

And this kind of struck me. I came to college with the mentality that I would get so much from my college; that I would grow and feed on the wisdom of those around me. I was fully prepared for my college to invest in me. Which makes me sound kind of like a parasite. And now that I have taken time to reflect, that’s just what it is: a parasite mentality.

Too often we (the millennials) base our decisions on what we can get, or experience. Just this past weekend, I was making plans with friends, but before I decided to commit, this thought ran through my head: “Well, hold on. Wait and see what your other friends are doing first”. Geez. Sorry guys, I really do value you.

This parasite mentality: “What can I get out of this?”, has gotten me into a lot of trouble. I go to a small, private Christian school, Asbury University. But I was drowning freshman through junior year. I starved myself of spiritual growth. I couldn’t understand it. Well, no, I didn’t have a “home church”, but I went to mandatory chapel services three times a week. And I wasn’t really involved in a small group, but I had a small group of friends, and that counts for something, right? The summer after my sophomore year, I no longer considered myself a Christian. And I hated myself. I hated how easily I had lost what I had believed to be a thriving faith. Not able to handle the guilt, I looked for a scapegoat. I started to hate Asbury.

Obviously, Asbury had failed to feed me spiritually. How could they have left such a fertile, willing soul to flounder this badly? Where was the lifeline that they were supposed to provide me?

This past spring, I went through an awakening. I did a pretty blunt review of my life. And my life looked a lot like crap. I read through some old journals from my high school days. I saw a thriving, spiritually healthy girl in those words. I broke inside.

I guess I’m in a place where I don’t feel like I can or should contribute to my community because it doesn’t feel like my mistakes and sins have been redeemed yet. But then I think, ‘That’s a stupid way to look at it because when will I ever feel like God has redeemed my sin?‘. So I guess I want to be vulnerable, and willing to do what God wants.

I still hesitate to identify with Christianity, and still struggle with my own doubts. But my faith is much less about me now. I learned the hard way that the parasite mentality is fundamentally wrong. Yet it permeates our entire society. I just watched a documentary on Netflix called “I Am” that addresses two of life’s biggest questions:

What is wrong with the world? And what can we do about it?

Courtesy of Rama's Screen

Courtesy of Rama’s Screen

The documentarian is actually Hollywood director Tom Shadyac, famous for making movies like Bruce Almighty and Ace Ventura. As he climbed the ladder of success and achieved the American Dream, he found himself unhappy and disillusioned. I viewed life as a ladder to be climbed. Except instead of climbing, I figured it would be more like an escalator and my peers and professors would lift me up to the top.

Asbury never wronged me, I wronged myself. I don’t know where you might be, but understand that it doesn’t matter where you think you are on this journey. God uses imperfect people. The more I think about it, the more I think that’s the point. How else could God demonstrate his perfection than by working through imperfect people to do really great things?

Personally, the only way I could kill the parasite mentality was by thinking about others above myself. In the end, it’s really not about me at all. I am not special, unique or a game changer. I am one in 7.12 billion people on planet Earth. I have a very small margin of influence. Which is cool, because God can still use that margin. So, dear reader, it’s your turn to kill the parasite mentality. Love God. Love others.

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Who are you?

Don’t you love how everyone is telling you what to do?

Let’s think about it. There are an infinity of quizzes, blogs, articles, and tweets telling you who you are, what you should do, how you should live, where you should go, what you should believe.

Is it possible that EVERYONE is going through an existential crisis?

Scrolling through my Facebook feed I am constantly bombarded by people posting the results of quizzes. “I’m an extrovert! What are you?” “I’m left brained! Take this quiz to find out what you are!” “22 things you should do before you turn 22!” “10 things a woman should look for in a man!”

Is it possible that no one knows who they are? Have we all missed that moment in life where we have direction and understanding of who we are?

It’s frightening, but also very sad, that so many feel the need to find their “directions” to a happy life via blogs and quizzes online. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but that post about “50 Ways to a Happier Life” is not going to make your life any happier. If anything, those types of posts make me feel inadequate. For instance, that 22 year old who has traveled all over the world and speaks four languages and is a national geographic photographer in her spare time: “Well jeez, I haven’t really done much with my life after all. What’s wrong with me?”

NOTHING. Nothing is wrong with me. The steps you took to get where you are in life, are not the steps I am taking to reach the same place in mine. That’s the difference. Your life. And mine.

Part of the development of the psyche is the realization of self. Somewhere between the ages of 1 and 2, a child realizes, “I am me”. As children grow, they begin to develop personality traits, and being to shape their character. Of course there are times that call for self-reflection and realization. But what does it say of our generation or society when we turn to quizzes and blog posts to tell us who we are, and stop experiencing life for ourselves?

Rick Warren puts it nicely on this post from rickwarren.org.

What this means is that you abandon any image of yourself that is not from God. You stop accepting what others have said about you, how others have labeled you, and how others have defined you.

You’re not defined by your feelings. You’re not defined by the opinions of others or by your circumstances. You’re not defined by your successes or failures. You’re not defined by the car you drive, the money you make, or the house you say you own when the bank really does.

http://rickwarren.org/devotional/english/embrace-your-identity-in-christ#.U9gdn4BdXT5

Let’s look at this lovely verse from Psalm 139. You might find it often on Pinterest or nicely painted on a canvas.

I praise you, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

The phrase that catches the eye is this: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”. It’s a beautiful truth about your identity. However, it is preceded by an equally important truth. “I praise you”. We find ourselves when we are praising/living for God. As Christians, our identity is intrinsically tied to God and how he created us.

I, personally, am done. I, the kid who grew up sneaking into Mom’s office to read personality books, am tired.

I choose to live life for myself, and make these realizations about myself through experience. I choose to no longer rely on someone else (who does not know me) to help figure out who I am. I choose to be me, and learn about me without quizzes, blog posts, or Facebook.

And now, it’s up to you. To live life by experiencing it for yourself, or vicariously living through articles you find online. YOU decide.

Fourteen

Atlanta is one of 14 United States cities with the highest rate of children used in prostitution.

Yesterday I had the privilege to attend a seminar held by a United Methodists Women’s Circle on the topic of sex trafficking.

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, sex trafficking is defined under these guidelines:

A person commits sex trafficking when he/she: a) recruits, entices, harbors, transports, provides or obtains another person to engage in sexually explicit conduct, or knowingly subjects a person to engage in sexually explicit conduct, for which anything of value is directly or indirectly given, promised, or received by any person; b) uses coercion or deception to induce or obtain sexually explicit conduct from another; or c) induces or obtains sexually explicit conduct from a minor person age 17 or younger).

The first time I heard about human trafficking was in 2007, after the release of the film Amazing Grace the year before. It was during an assembly held at my high school, in which we were made aware of the very real problem of sexual exploitation of both adults and minors.

The statistics are appalling. And I had no idea how much happens right here in Atlanta.

The FBI released a report with statistics in which Atlanta was found to be in the 14 US cities with the highest rate of sexual exploitation of children.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation did a comprehensive study of human trafficking in Georgia. They found that 63% of law enforcement polled in the State of Georgia said they did not feel adequately trained to handle cases involving sex trafficking.

Innocence Atlanta posted statistics revealing that 40.4% of all suspected trafficking incidents were child-related and classified as “prostitution or sexual exploitation of a child”.

It’s easy to lose hope when looking at the numbers. But the fact that there are people behind these numbers sparks me to action. There is hope. Groups like youthSpark are working on prevention and care for victims of sex trafficking. The Polaris Project is actively combatting modern-day slavery. Not For Sale envisions a world in which every person knows that they are not for sale. There are several pro-active organizations listed on the End It movement’s website.

You can get involved. You can help. You can take action.

Atlanta is one of 14 US cities with the highest rating of children in prostitution.

Let’s change that number to 13.